BBC Philharmonic

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BBC Philharmonic
BBC Philharmonic logo.png
The BBC Philharmonic Logo
Founded 1922 (1922)
Location Manchester, United Kingdom
Principal conductor (post vacant)

The BBC Philharmonic is a national British broadcasting symphony orchestra and is one of five radio orchestras maintained by the British Broadcasting Corporation and is a department of the BBC North Group division based at MediaCityUK, England, the orchestra's primary concert venue is the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester.


The 2ZY Orchestra was formed in 1922 for a Manchester radio station of the same name. It gave the first broadcast performances of many famous English works, including Elgar's Dream of Gerontius and Enigma Variations and Holst's The Planets. The orchestra was part-funded by the British Broadcasting Company (precursor of the BBC), and renamed the Northern Wireless Orchestra in 1926.

When the BBC Symphony Orchestra was established in London in 1930, the new Corporation cut its regional orchestras' funding. The Northern Wireless Orchestra was downsized to just nine players, and renamed the Northern Studio Orchestra.

Three years later, however, the BBC reversed its decision and maintained a full orchestra again - since 1934 it was called the BBC Northern Orchestra. This was the beginning of the orchestra in its present form. It rehearsed and broadcast from the Milton Hall, Deansgate, Manchester.

The orchestra played at its first Prom in 1961, and enjoyed popularity with performances at the Free Trade Hall, a venue it shared with the Hallé.

On 21 January 1967 the name of the orchestra was changed to the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra.

In 1982, the orchestra received a vote of confidence from the BBC, who expanded the orchestra and changed its name to the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. The name conveyed the message that the ensemble was no longer a Northern orchestra - it was an orchestra based in the North.

The name was later[when?] shortened to the BBC Philharmonic.

Yan Pascal Tortelier was principal conductor of the orchestra from 1992 to 2002, and now holds the title of conductor laureate. Gianandrea Noseda became principal conductor of the orchestra in September 2002. In October 2006, the orchestra changed Noseda's title to chief conductor, in conjunction with his contract extension through 2010.[1] Noseda concluded his tenure as chief conductor in 2011 and now has the title of conductor laureate along with Tortelier. In July 2010, the orchestra announced the appointment of Juanjo Mena as its next chief conductor, effective with the 2011-2012 season, with an initial contract of three years.[2] Since 1996, has served as the orchestra's principal guest conductor. Vassily Sinaisky, principal guest conductor of the orchestra from 1996 through January 2012, now has the title of conductor emeritus with the orchestra. In March 2011, the orchestra announced the appointment of John Storgårds as its next principal guest conductor, effective January 2012.[3] In January 2017, the orchestra announced the appointment of Ben Gernon as its next principal guest conductor, as of the autumn of 2017. In parallel, Storgårds is to take the title of chief guest conductor of the orchestra. Mena concluded his tenure as principal conductor in the summer of 2018.[4]

Since September 2007, the orchestra has been in a major partnership with Salford City Council, enabling the Orchestra to build active links with Salford and its communities. In 2011, the BBC Philharmonic moved to their new dedicated studio at Media City, Salford Quays, along with a number of other BBC departments that made the move.


Like all BBC performing groups, the orchestra contributes to the schedule of Radio 3, recording at Studio 7 of New Broadcasting House on Oxford Road, Manchester. Since 1996, most of the orchestra's live performances have been at the city's Bridgewater Hall, although it frequently tours the UK and internationally.

Anecdotally, the 'BBC Phil' is known as the most adventurous of the BBC orchestras, and has a younger demographic of players. It has always embraced contemporary composers, working with Copland, Walton and Berio amongst others. Whilst not having a formal "composer in residence", since 1991, the orchestra has appointed major composers to collaborate in programs of contemporary music, including Peter Maxwell Davies, James MacMillan, and HK Gruber.[5] In more recent years, the orchestra has collaborated with BBC Radio One in producing orchestral performance with modern artists, including symphonies with bands Nero and The xx.

The BBC Philharmonic has made over 150 recordings, and for the most part, it has steered clear of orchestral 'warhorses'. Series of British film music, the music of George Enescu, and Stokowski's Bach transcriptions have been featured, all on the Chandos label.

Principal conductors[edit]


  1. ^ David Ward (2006-10-11). "Noseda becomes chief conductor of BBC Philharmonic". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  2. ^ "Juanjo Mena set to succeed Gianandrea Noseda in 2011" (Press release). BBC Philharmonic. 5 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-08. 
  3. ^ "New Principal Guest Conductor Announced: John Storgårds to succeed Vassily Sinaisky in 2012" (Press release). BBC Philharmonic. 2 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-19. 
  4. ^ Maria Roberts (2017-01-31). "BBC Philharmonic announces new principal guest conductor". International Arts Manager. Retrieved 2010-07-09. 
  5. ^ Andrew Clements (2010-02-27). "This week's music previews". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-03-19. 

External links[edit]